Dead Rising: Case Zero Review

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Dead Rising: Case Zero Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Blue Castle Games

Platform: Xbox 360
Reviewed on Xbox 360

Motocross Star Chuck Green is desperate to escape a zombie outbreak in Las Vegas with his ailing daughter. Only a regular dose of Zombrex will keep Chuck's daughter healthy, and just short of the quarantine perimeter, his Zombrex (and truck) is stolen. Chuck has 12 hours to find Zombrex in a town filled with the shambling dead. Fortunately, just about everything can be used to kill zombies, and searching for Zombrex is more fun when you strap chainsaws to both ends of a kayak paddle.

Kyle Ackerman

Dead Rising: Case Zero presents a remarkable conundrum. Despite the quandary for publishers and consumers, it's tons of zombie-hacking fun for merely $5.

First, the dilemma: Dead Rising: Case Zero is a demo for Dead Rising 2 (out shortly)... that you pay for. Players are used to getting demos for free, giving them a chance to see whether the full game is something they wish to purchase. Publishers hate demos, because they add considerable work (even if the demo is just part of the commercial release, it's still extra work to create a game demo), and lots of customers don't extend that demo experience into a purchase of the full game.

The First Hit Is No Longer Free

The traditional view is that the extra work (and cost) of creating a demo is ultimately worth it, in that a quality demo will convince additional people to purchase the full game. As a result, the additional cost of creating the game is (theoretically) more than offset by the additional sales. Dead Rising: Case Zero takes a different approach. Dead Rising: Case Zero offers an experience not duplicated in the retail release, and charges a nominal fee for it. On stand-alone examination, players get a lot more content than they would normally expect from a $5 Xbox Live Arcade download. It's as if extra downloadable content were released before the main game, rather than after.

As long as the content in the demo (Dead Rising: Case Zero) isn't duplicated in the full game (Dead Rising 2), and the content is incredibly high quality, this scheme works fantastically. The content is more than worth the $5. In many ways, Dead Rising: Case Zero is better than the original Dead Rising (and possibly Dead Rising 2) – it offers a tiny sandbox in which to enjoy the game's fantastic zombie bashing action. Rather than having to replay a long game several times to experience what the full Dead Rising has to offer, the entire experience can be enjoyed in one or more replays of an hour or two. Personally, I tinkered around a bit to learn the locations of things, ran through the whole Dead Rising: Case Zero experience to save all the survivors and escape the town, and then played a bit more to play around with the various violent toys available in the game. It didn't take long, but it would be well worth the price of admission.

A Good Game But A Dangerous Precedent

For Capcom, Dead Rising: Case Zero presents only a small problem. There are quite a few people who purchased the original Dead Rising who just wanted to mess around, killing zombies, for a bit. Those people will be easily satisfied by Dead Rising: Case Zero, and are unlikely to purchase Dead Rising 2. On the other hand, those consumers (already knowing about Dead Rising) might not have purchased Dead Rising 2 anyway, and will be much happier. It's unclear if Capcom will do better with a lot of extra $5 sales than it would have with a few $60 sales. Consumers are certainly happier.

The real problem will come in the future. Capcom did a marvelous job with Dead Rising: Case Zero. But other publishers are going to try the same thing, and it won't be long before someone releases a "paid demo" that is complete crap or that is duplicated in the full game. Then there will be screaming and wailing and gnashing of teeth. The paid demo model works as long as there is trust between the gamer and the publisher. As soon as that trust is violated, this model will experience serious growing pains.

Love the Combos, Hate the Psycho

If you look at Dead Rising: Case Zero, it's pure, marvelous play. It's a short, self-contained sandbox with plenty of toys for messing around with zombies. Chuck has a clear motivation in his need to save his daughter, and while his infected daughter looks creepy, the voice acting is spot on. It's bad enough to hear the little girl cry "No, Daddy! No!" when Chuck is about to give her a shot of Zombrex, but it's heart-wrenching to hear those words every parent dreads: "Why did Mommy bite me?"

I love the combo weapons. The game already had more than enough variety when it came to messing with zombies, but the combos are as delicious as they are ridiculous. Driving nails through a baseball bat makes it a simple and elegant weapon, while taping a can of spray paint to a construction pylon creates and air horn so loud it explodes zombie heads. Silly, but fun. Dead Rising: Case Zero is manageable in size, and while easily completed in around two hours, with a bit more than twice that of additional fun and exploration.

My biggest quibble with Dead Rising: Case Zero is sure to be my problem with Dead Rising 2. In the original Dead Rising, I wasn't a fan of the psycho fights. These were boss fights with non-zombified crazies that interrupted the fantastic, open-world, zombie survival effort with gimmicky fights, most of which required a specific approach to win. Clearly, psychos are back in Dead Rising 2, and Case Zero culminates with a fight against such a wacko. Once I figured out the gimmick, it wasn't so hard to take down Jed the Mechanic, but that only happened on the fourth try. And by that point, I was so sick of the long loading screens that I was extremely irritable. The load screens in Case Zero are long, and that's something I can only overlook if I encounter them occasionally. Watching them over and over so I could reattempt the final fight was just plain irritating.

Go On, Just Try A Little...

So, as a paid demo, Dead Rising: Case Zero works, but only because it is high quality, low cost and independent of the game it promotes. The downside for Capcom is that for gamers with jobs and little time, this is about all the Dead Rising they need. For five bucks, they get the zombie playground that is all many wanted out of the original game. The upside is that Capcom has already made a metric buttload of cash from Dead Rising: Case Zero and gotten plenty of good press for Dead Rising 2.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on September 8, 2010 11:21 PM.

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